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Fanfiction: Protective Measures

Fandom: Stargate SG1
Series: Aftershocks
TAG to Episode: S4 Entity
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Sam/Team friendship.  Sam/Jack UST.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.  Written for entertainment purposes only.

 

Protective Measures

‘OK,’ Janet Fraiser broke the silence in the MALP room, her eyes skipping over the relieved faces of SG1 and General Hammond, ‘we need to get Major Carter back to the infirmary now.’ Her hands were already busy unhooking everything to prepare Sam for transport. Her eyes landed on the man in her way. ‘Sir.’

Jack O’Neill’s eyes were pinned to Sam’s and Janet wasn’t unaware that Sam’s eyes were equally pinned to Jack’s. The Colonel started as though he’d only just heard Janet’s prompt. ‘Hmmm?’

‘We need to move the Major back to the infirmary, sir.’ Janet repeated kindly. She understood his need to be close, understood his need not to lose sight of Sam alive and breathing. Less than an hour before, he’d sat by her bedside believing he’d killed her. Janet could only imagine how that had felt especially given what the two military officers of SG1 felt for each other.

‘Right.’ Jack took a step back, removing the hand that had rested on top of the covers and shoving it into his pants’ pocket.

Two medics moved forward to help Janet shift the gurney.

Sam suddenly coughed weakly. Her blue eyes widened in alarm as her hand moved to her chest. ‘Janet…’

Janet halted the gurney and stepped forward immediately to listen to Sam’s heartbeat and breathing.

‘Doc?’ Jack prompted worriedly.

‘She’s stopped breathing! She’s going into cardiac arrest!’ She stated urgently. Her brown eyes flew to her medics even as she attached a breathing pump and another medic began compressions. ‘Let’s move! Go!’

She was barely aware of the journey back, of a worried SG1 and Hammond following; her whole being was intent on keeping Sam alive. She and her team raced into the treatment room. A nurse moved to hook Sam up to the monitoring equipment, another brought over the paddles. Janet ordered the drugs she needed without thought, her hands taking the paddles. She waited until the drug was administered and the nurse stepped back.

‘Clear.’ She said loudly. She could feel the jolt through the equipment she held. Her eyes flew to the monitor. ‘No rhythm. Charge to two-fifty. Clear.’ Another jolt. Sam’s heartbeat started. The Major stirred, coughing weakly before lapsing into unconsciousness.

Janet listened to the heartbeat and nodded with satisfaction. She gave orders for oxygen and an IV. Her nursing team moved in to get Sam situated properly.

‘Doc?’

Jack’s anxiety pulled Janet’s attention from her patient finally. She turned to look at him, unsurprised to find him just behind her. The Colonel looked exhausted; dark circles had formed under his openly worried brown eyes and the lines that carved through his face were deeper than normal. She wondered briefly if she should be concerned about him collapsing.

‘She’s OK, sir.’ Janet assured him calmly. ‘I think her body was just reacting to the shock of Sam’s consciousness being in control again. She’s been through a great deal in the last twenty-four hours.’ She was aware her words were an understatement; an entity had occupied Sam’s body, suppressed Sam’s brain, her body had been zatted twice, her consciousness transferred into a computer and back into her body…it was a miracle Sam had survived. ‘We’re going to need to keep her under observation here in the infirmary.’

Jack nodded.

‘You should get some rest, Colonel.’ Janet said quietly.

‘I’m fine.’ His hard stare challenged her to argue the point.

Janet sighed and shoved her hands in the deep pockets of her white medical coat. She could order him to leave but maybe it would begin his healing if he stayed with her. She nodded at him sharply and she caught a glimpse of his relief before he dropped his gaze. She took one final glance at Sam before she walked out. She stayed in the corridor to gather her composure before she entered the observation room where General Hammond and the other members of SG1 waited.

They all showed signs of the stressful events. Daniel Jackson was too pale; his eyes red-rimmed as though he had been crying. Teal’c’s dark eyes glimmered with churning emotions that usually the impassive Jaffa was able to suppress. Even the General looked exhausted, his face reddened as though he had run a marathon. All three of them looked at her for answers despite the fact that she knew they would have overheard her conversation with the Colonel.

Janet felt the weight of their expectation. ‘If we can keep her stable for the next twenty-four hours, I believe she’ll make a full recovery.’

‘Very good.’ Hammond turned to Daniel. ‘That was a good call in the MALP room, Doctor Jackson.’

Daniel flushed. He’d been the one to correctly realise the entity that had remained in the computer was Sam.

Hammond gestured at Janet. ‘Keep me informed, Doctor.’ He gave a small smile. ‘I have a base to get up and running.’ He left them without another word.

Janet motioned through the window at Jack and Sam. ‘Why don’t you join them?’ She could see the indecision written plain on Daniel’s face and Teal’c also hesitated. ‘Go on.’ She encouraged. ‘I think they could both do with your support.’

Teal’c inclined his head solemnly. Daniel nodded. She watched as they left the observation room and entered the treatment room. Jack had taken the same stool he had been perched on earlier. Daniel drew up a chair on the opposite side of the bed while Teal’c took a second stool close to the Colonel.

Janet nodded to herself. It had been a difficult day for them all. They’d come so close to losing Sam. When they had believed she was dead, it had been devastating for SG1. It had been devastating for her. She and Sam were friends, good friends. Seeing her lying there possessed by the entity…Janet couldn’t recall ever feeling so helpless. That might have been horrifying enough on its own but the moment the Colonel zatted Sam for the second time…seeing her friend’s body on the corridor floor, so still, so lifeless. Janet wiped hurriedly at the moisture that seeped from her eyes with trembling hands and stepped back from the observation window.

There was a tentative knock at the door. ‘Doctor Fraiser?’

She kept her head forward to hide the tell-tale sign of her tears. ‘Yes, Nurse?’

‘Lieutenant Collins has just come in. He’s fallen down the stairs.’

‘I’ll be right there.’ Janet was proud that she kept her voice crisp and even. She heard the nurse’s departing footsteps and took in a shaky breath as she swiftly swiped at the rest of her tears. She took one final look at SG1 through the window before she turned away. They would heal; they had each other and they didn’t need her – Lieutenant Collins did.

o-O-o

Teal’c let the sight of Samantha Carter settle his soul and let go of the angst that had filled every hour since the entity had taken control of her. An oxygen mask covered her too pale face and her hair lay in disarray on the pillow; she looked tremendously weak yet he knew it was an illusion. She was strong. She had survived the entity’s possession; the trauma.

She was safe.

It was all that mattered to Teal’c. He let his own feelings of guilt at failing to protect her, the pain of believing she was lost and the hope that she lived, slip away. She did not need the burden of his emotions; she would require his strength and that of their team-mates.

His dark eyes roamed first to Daniel Jackson sat beside her on the other side of the bed. The archaeologist’s hand rested on their team-mate’s arm as though he needed the reassurance of touch that she was alive. Perhaps he did, Teal’c considered.

His eyes turned to the military man beside him and saw how O’Neill’s eyes glanced off the way Daniel touched Sam. He believed the Colonel wished he had the same freedom to show his affection and love for her. O’Neill had struggled all day to contain his feelings for his fellow officer; to show nothing more to the world than a concerned CO and not a man desperately in love with a woman. The struggle had climaxed with O’Neill shooting Major Carter to save the base – an act they had all believed at the time had killed her. His mind slipped back to that awful memory…

Everything and everyone seemed frozen. Jack stood over the crumpled form of Sam, the zat held loosely in his hand, a horrified audience looking on.

Janet moved suddenly, stooping to the other woman with a grim determination. ‘I need a crash cart here stat!’ She yelled.

Teal’c moved, running past a shocked Daniel. The Jaffa grabbed the medical equipment, and followed the nurses back to the corridor. He handed everything over as the doctor and her team worked to save Sam. He drew his team leader away and took away the zat that hung from Jack’s lifeless grip.

God. What have I done?’ The words were barely audible as Jack shoved a hand through his hair.

Teal’c felt Daniel move to stand beside them. All of their attention was pinned to the still form of their team-mate.

I have a pulse!’

Janet’s shout had Daniel slapping Teal’c’s shoulder and patting Jack’s back consolingly.

You hear that, Jack?’ Daniel said softly. ‘She’s going to be OK.’

Jack swallowed hard and didn’t reply.

Let’s get ready to move her!’ Janet’s call had them moving out of the way as the gurney trundled past them. They had followed it all the way back to the room, watched as Janet continued to work.

Eventually she walked over to talk them, her arms tightly crossed over her chest as though she was in pain. Teal’c felt his stomach sink at the look in her distressed eyes and he saw Jack shake his head out of the corner of his eyes.

Sam is…’ Janet stopped as her voice broke. She took a breath. ‘We managed to get her heart beating again and we’ve put her on a respirator.’

So she’ll be OK?’ Daniel asked hopefully; it was the question they all wanted answered. His arms were wound tightly around his torso.

There’s no sign of any brain activity.’ Janet said quietly.

Daniel flinched and turned away; Jack’s face closed up. Teal’c drew himself up as he realised what the doctor was telling them.

The machine is keeping her alive.’ Janet said brokenly. ‘There’s nothing more I can do.’

But she’s alive, right?’ Jack said, his eyes daring her to disagree.

Her body is being sustained.’ Janet agreed. ‘But…it’s unlikely that she will…she will…’ her eyes filled with tears, ‘I’m sorry, sir.’

Thank you, Doctor. We understand.’ Hammond’s voice drew their attention. Teal’c could see the tears shining in the General’s eyes as he looked at SG1. ‘You’ll want some time with her.’ The General’s gaze landed on Jack. ‘You did the right thing, son.’ Hammond walked over and took hold of Sam’s hand. He gently squeezed it before he left, Janet following him from the room.

Jack walked over to the bed. Daniel and Teal’c followed him.

I can’t believe she’s…’ Daniel cut himself off. His head bowed as he blinked back tears.

Teal’c placed a hand on Daniel’s shoulder.

Jack remained silent. His hand crept towards the bed before he drew back.

I can’t do this.’ Daniel whirled away.

Teal’c watched in empathy. They had already lost so many they cared about. To lose Samantha Carter – their treasured sister…it was too cruel. He gently leaned forward and placed a hand on her arm. He bowed his own head in silent grief. He looked over at Jack.

The Colonel was staring at Sam, his face a mask of devastation.

You should not blame yourself, O’Neill.’ Teal’c said quietly. ‘You did what had to be done.’

A muscle flexed in Jack’s jaw. ‘I insisted on doing it my way. You’d think I would have learned by now.’

Teal’c knew there was nothing he could say. ‘I will leave you.’ He said softly. The Jaffa knew the other man would be more comfortable making his goodbyes in private. He walked out into the corridor and made his way at a sedate pace to Daniel’s office.

It took him a moment to locate the archaeologist. Daniel sat on the floor in the far shadows looking at the picture of Sha’re, his late wife. His face was wet with tears. Teal’c joined him hesitantly, lowering himself to the floor and sitting cross-legged beside him.

Jack was right.’ Daniel said eventually. ‘The entity wanted to destroy us.’ He gave a bitter laugh. ‘I wanted to talk to it.’

Your conversation with the entity revealed useful information.’ Teal’c said. He held his head high. ‘You were not wrong to try.’ He admitted.

Daniel looked over at him. ‘Is Jack…?’

Still with Major Carter.’ Teal’c confirmed.

I can’t believe he shot her.’ Daniel confessed.

He had no choice.’

I know.’ Daniel sighed. ‘I don’t think I could have done it.’ He placed the picture aside and swiped at his face. ‘How’s he going to get past this? How do we get past this?’

I do not know.’ Teal’c said quietly. ‘I only know Major Carter would want us to try.’

Daniel nodded. He took his glasses off and rubbed his face dry. He replaced them. ‘We should, uh…’ he pointed at the door.

Indeed.’ Teal’c said. They would return to the infirmary room and say goodbye one last time and they would be there for Jack and for each other…

Teal’c brought his mind back to the present. The events after their return had turned everything around; their team-mate was alive. Still, it was going to be a difficult time.

They had no idea if Major Carter knew what had occurred; O’Neill would still have to deal with the guilt of knowing he had shot to kill her even if it had not succeeded, and Teal’c knew Daniel sharply felt the sting of disapproval from wanting to communicate with the entity even though it may have cost Sam her life. Teal’c inwardly renewed his commitment and loyalty to his team-mates; they would get past the events as a team, as a family. He was certain of it.

o-O-o

Daniel could feel the steady pulse of Sam’s heartbeat under the fingers he had wrapped around her wrist. He hadn’t lost someone else he cared about; she was alive. He felt his surging emotions swell in his body; his chest tightening on a wave of relief and guilt. It was the guilt that surged to the surface and worried at him.

Both he and Sam had suggested communicating with the entity but she had been the one who had done it. He should have stepped forward – off-world it would have been him who approached and made contact, who tried to understand. He wondered whether he should be worried that he didn’t mind the idea of dying – not that he wanted to die or was suicidal, it was just that he realised the notion didn’t scare him. Maybe because he had already died too many times.

Losing Sam had scared him.

His parents might not have gifted him with a sister but the universe had in Sam. She shared his love of study; understood the academic and intellectual curiosity that drove him in his love of archaeology and linguistics. They complemented each other; science and art. He often found himself talking with her when he was stuck on a translation and he knew she often bounced ideas off him. They got each other. More she had been his friend from the moment they had met. Without question. Without hesitation. She had simply accepted him in a way no-one else except maybe Sha’re had ever done.

Daniel rubbed his thumb over her skin. After Abydos, Jack might have seen to his physical needs – somewhere to stay, clothes, money – and he was grateful, truly grateful – but it had been Sam who had made the first few days back on Earth bearable emotionally. Sam had been his comfort; someone to confide in – a friend. His friendship with Jack had been based on their shared experience of the first trip to Abydos at the time; his friendship with Teal’c had been non-existent. Sam had been a godsend. She had provided a buffer between his civilian academia and the militaristic nature of the SGC and their team-mates. They had quickly become each others’ allies.

His blue eyes never shifted from Sam’s face. Their alliance had come into play in the MALP room when they had discovered the nest and interface the entity had created. He had wanted to talk with it. Sam had known that. He had complained to her after the General’s order to wipe it from the main computer earlier. She had supported him. Had she really believed communicating with it was the right approach or had he influenced her unfairly? He would never know the truth because he was fairly certain if he asked her, Sam would tell him that he hadn’t influenced her at all. His guilt surged forward again.

‘… no matter what happens, how this turns out, Sam wasn’t wrong to try to communicate with it.’

His earlier words to Jack and Teal’c mocked him. All of them had been in the MALP room trying to make sense of the entity going into Sam. Jack had believed the whole nest had been a trap. At the time, Daniel had defended the approach he and Sam had taken. He had missed Sam standing shoulder to shoulder with him supporting their idea; had felt as though he stood on one side of a gaping chasm with Jack and Teal’c on the other. He had never felt the differences between himself and his friends so keenly; never felt their disapproval for his preferred way of doing things so sharply.

Yet it would seem that they had been right and he had been wrong. The entity had admitted that it had gone into Sam to preserve its own life. If Sam had died it would have been his fault, Daniel mused. He had wanted to communicate with it. His eyes flickered to Jack. If Sam had died he wasn’t certain the older man would have ever recovered from it. It had been Jack who had fired the zat and ostensibly killed her. Daniel figured Jack would never have forgiven him for getting Sam infected by the entity in the first place.

He sighed softly at his muddled thinking. At least he had redeemed himself by recognising that it was Sam in the MALP mainframe and not the entity. Of course, Daniel thought with sudden clarity, he had only realised it was Sam because he had talked with the entity; it had told them that it couldn’t go back – had told them that it could not leave Sam without killing her. Teal’c had even allowed that Daniel’s discussion with the entity had elicited useful information. So, maybe he hadn’t been so wrong after all.

Daniel shifted his gaze back to Sam. And maybe all that mattered was that Sam had made it; she was alive. His fingers pressed against her wrist again to the steady beat of her pulse.

o-O-o

Jack stared at the ground. He was torn. Part of him wanted to be closer to Carter, to hold her hand like Daniel and have the reassurance of her warm skin under his fingers. But he couldn’t. He was her CO; touching wasn’t allowed. Besides, he couldn’t help thinking it was his fault she was there and that led to the other part of him…the part of him that didn’t want to be in the room at all.

A part of him that wanted to leave; to go home, climb into his bed and pretend the day hadn’t happened. That he hadn’t failed to protect Carter again; that he hadn’t aimed a zat at the woman he loved; that he hadn’t shot her not once, but twice. That he hadn’t ended up in the damn corridor with a zat in his hand and aiming it her only because he had taunted the entity, threatened it, let his anger spill over.

If she had died…

But she hadn’t.

Still, his mind couldn’t stop returning to the moment in the corridor. He had watched uncertain as the entity had raised Carter’s arms, had sent energy crackling into the computer. Jack hadn’t known it was sending Carter to safety; had only believed like Teal’c that it was trying to escape again.

He had raised the zat.

Fired the weapon.

The entity had paused and stared back at him angrily; Carter’s blue eyes filled with hatred and defiance. It had continued.

Jack knew he had hesitated. He had known he should shoot again and stop it but he had known a second shot would also kill Carter. It had only been the knowledge that she would never have wanted him to put her, to put whatever he felt for her, before the safety of others that had prompted him to raise his arm a second time. Fire the second shot.

He had killed her.

Only Janet’s swift action in ensuring Carter’s body was resuscitated had given them a chance and one that had seemed to quickly slip away again. When he was left alone with Carter he hadn’t held her hand or kissed her the way that he’d wanted. He’d felt as though he’d lost that right – not that he’d ever had it except in wishes and time loops. He’d known he’d had no right to sit beside her bed; to pretend that she was simply sleeping so he could pretend she was alive that he hadn’t killed her.

I think its time to let her go, sir.’

Janet’s quiet, heartbroken words had run through Jack like a dagger. How could he let go? He had confessed once he would rather die than lose her and he had meant it. Sitting by Carter’s bedside knowing she was dead, that he had killed her; that he had lost her…

Daniel had saved her. The archaeologist had talked to the entity but more importantly he had listened. He had heard what Jack hadn’t wanted to hear and it had saved Carter. In the MALP room, Jack had wanted to blow the apparatus up again but Daniel had stopped them; Daniel had worked it out that it wasn’t the entity but Sam, and Jack had wanted so desperately to believe him, to believe that it was Carter.

I was shouting for you to hear.’ Carter had said when they’d gotten her back.

We heard.’ Jack had replied.

But he hadn’t. He hadn’t heard a thing…it had been Daniel. Gratitude and jealousy pulled at him fiercely.

He had killed her.

Daniel had saved her.

Daniel had saved him.

Jack’s eyes flitted up to look at her. His gaze roamed over her face. Her eyes opened briefly and looked right at him. Jack was caught by surprise and he found himself looking back at her completely unguarded. So many emotions swirled between them and suddenly he was back behind a thin blue flickering barrier on a ship…back in a chair revealing just how much he’d slipped over the line with her, with an officer under his command…

I didn’t leave because I’d rather die myself than lose Carter.’

Why?’

Because I care about her. A lot more than I’m supposed to.’

Her eyes drifted shut again.

He was too close, Jack realised. He stood suddenly.

‘I have to…’ Jack gestured vaguely at the door and ignored the startled look on Daniel’s face, the raised eyebrow on Teal’c’s. He spun on his heel and walked out. He walked without thinking, without any destination in mind…all he knew was that he needed to be anywhere but in the infirmary room with the woman he loved; the woman he had shot.

His feet slowed as he realised he had ended up at her lab and he whirled around and headed for the elevator. He could do with a shower, he thought resolutely. Clean clothes. Food. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten. He ignored the way his stomach roiled in protest.

The locker room was blessedly empty. He stripped efficiently and got into the shower. Hot water rushed over him. Jack turned his face up to the spray.

Just concentrate on getting it out of her.’

I don’t know how.’

Don’t think about it, he told himself.

Jack, we may have to make some difficult choices. I know that Major Carter means a great deal to you.’

She’s a very valuable member of my team, sir.’

Don’t think about it, he begged himself.

His arm raised; blue lightening shooting out.

Carter’s crumpled body on the floor.

Don’t.

Think.

About it.

I think its time to let her go, sir.’

The cry broke free before Jack could stop it. The struggle to contain his emotions – the struggle he’d been fighting since the entity had taken her – was lost in an instant. He bowed his head, almost collapsing against the tile as sob after sob shook him.

It felt like forever before he raised his head, rubbed his face under the spray to eliminate the evidence of his crying jag. He finished showering methodically and wrapped a towel around his lower body as he headed into the locker area. He dried himself; changed into a clean set of BDUs. He sat on the bench listlessly.

I have observed. You value the life of one. This one is important.’ The entity’s voice sounded harshly from the synthesiser.

Jack had tensed. ‘She is.’

For this reason this one was chosen. You will not terminate this one in order to destroy me.’

Jack wanted to believe that the entity had meant that he had observed how integral Carter was to the whole running of the base and the Stargate, but he couldn’t help but wonder if it had observed something more personal between him and Carter, if it had picked up on his feelings for her. Had that been the reason why she had been chosen?

He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his thighs, his hands loosely clasped together. The frat regs existed for many reasons but the main one, the big one was to protect military personnel. Protect junior staff from unwanted advances; protect them in the field from making personal decisions rather than tactical ones; protect them from giving their enemy an advantage, a way to get to them.

The first of those might not apply to him and Carter – he knew she felt the same way about him as he did about her – but the rest…he had hesitated in shooting in her a second time. Given how Hammond had cautioned him, Jack had evidently shown enough about how he felt for the General to be concerned that he wouldn’t make an unbiased decision. But what was worse was the thought that maybe his feelings had led the entity to choose Carter in the first place.

Jack winced and rubbed his hands over his face. Oh, he’d done a really bang-up job of protecting Carter. He was the senior officer. How had he let an attraction and liking Carter slip into love? How had it happened? How had he let it happen? He had fooled himself, Jack realised. He had initially fooled himself because he’d thought she would never return his feelings so it didn’t matter what he felt. And later, when he’d discovered his feelings were returned, that shockingly she felt the same way, he’d fooled them both into thinking they could handle everything so he could have the hope of one day being with her. He should have told her – should have told himself – that it wasn’t going to happen, that they had to move on. It would have been hell and it would have hurt them both for a while but he should have done it. Protecting Carter should have come first; keeping her safe.

His jaw clenched. He’d fooled himself into thinking that because SG1 wasn’t the usual military unit that it was OK to care about her more than he should, that it was OK to care about them all more than he should as their team-leader, their CO. He was way over the line with them all not just Carter. His mind slipped back to the previous weekend; they had helped Carter move house. The day had been filled with laughter and banter; jokes about the training scenario they had just done with the latest batch of possible recruits. Somewhere, somehow in the last four years they had shifted from colleagues to team-mates to friends to family so fast it left him breathless. But they couldn’t be family.

A perfect sunny day and the feeling of being happy with his arms around his wife as she showed off their son’s school work flashed through his head. The sound of a fatal gunshot ripping through the air. The cold that had seeped into his bones at the sound had him shivering anew. He hadn’t protected the last family he’d had, Jack thought harshly. He’d lost his son, his wife. He’d failed to protect them just like he’d failed to protect Carter. Well, it was never too late to start doing the right thing.

The locker room door opened and Jack looked up to check who it was.

Teal’c closed the door behind him and approached Jack cautiously. The Jaffa sat beside him. ‘This is most difficult, O’Neill.’

Jack wet his lips and rubbed his fingers together.

‘You did what had to be done.’ Teal’c continued. ‘I believe Major Carter will understand.’

Jack lurched to his feet. His hand was on the door handle when Teal’c stopped him.

‘O’Neill.’

Jack didn’t turn back. ‘Look after them, Teal’c.’ He opened the door and stepped out. He made his way to the General’s office quickly. He hovered in the open doorway, his hand paused mid-way to the door-frame to knock as he realised the General was on the red phone.

Hammond waved him inside. ‘Yes, Mister President. Understood, sir. Thank you, sir.’ He put the phone down and looked across the desk at Jack who stood nervously in front of him. ‘What can I do for you, Colonel?’ There was a surprised tone to the General’s voice as though he hadn’t expected to see Jack. He probably hadn’t, Jack mused. The General had probably expected him to still be with Carter.

Jack felt his jaw tighten. ‘I’d like to request some leave, sir.’

Hammond looked at him intently, his pale blue eyes boring into Jack’s. He finally gestured. ‘Shut the door and take a seat, Jack.’

Jack followed the orders with a sinking heart.

‘You can’t blame yourself for what happened.’ Hammond began, his clasped hands rested on a folder on his desk. ‘Perhaps if I had allowed Doctor Jackson to talk with it when we first discovered it, things may have transpired differently. I know this hasn’t been easy for you. It hasn’t been easy for any of us. It’s probably best for you and your team to use this time to…’

‘With respect, General,’ Jack cut into the older man’s comforting pep talk, ‘I think it’s best for my team if I get some distance from them.’

Hammond looked at Jack again.

Jack waited. He hoped Hammond got the meaning in his statement beyond the obvious.

The General sat back and sighed. ‘If you really think you need to do this…’

‘I do.’ Jack said quickly.

‘Very well.’ Hammond nodded, his bald head gleaming under the lights. ‘You have permission to leave the base. Take a week. I’ll put through the paperwork.’

Jack felt relief flood him. ‘Thank you, sir.’ He got to his feet.

‘Jack.’ Hammond gazed at him kindly. ‘If you ever need to talk, my door is always open.’

Jack couldn’t speak. He nodded sharply. He didn’t hesitate; he headed straight back to the locker room; he changed and grabbed his stuff. He refused to think about it, refused to think how Carter would react when he wasn’t there for her…he was too close, they were too close. He needed distance.

Thirty minutes later, he was on the road to Minnesota, putting miles and miles between him and the SGC; between him and SG1 and trying hard not to feel like he was leaving them behind…

o-O-o

Sam fumbled sleepily with the oxygen mask over her face. A hand gently enclosed hers and helped remove it. She turned her head and smiled at Teal’c as he placed the mask to the side.

‘Hey.’

Daniel’s quiet word drew her attention and she turned to greet him. ‘Daniel.’ She frowned at how tired he looked. ‘You look terrible.’ She struggled to sit up and Teal’c moved to help her. She glanced around the infirmary room. ‘Where’s the Colonel?’

Teal’c and Daniel looked at each other.

‘I will retrieve Doctor Fraiser.’ Teal’c said solemnly. He left swiftly.

Sam looked after him in bemusement. ‘Daniel,’ she began, ‘what’s going on?’

Daniel pushed his glasses up his nose and sat on the bed beside her. ‘Sam, what’s the last thing you remember?’

She looked at him confused. ‘I was trying to communicate with the entity in the computer. I…I, uh, I think I got electrocuted again?’

‘You don’t remember what happened?’ Daniel checked.

‘Did something else happen?’ Sam asked a bit disturbed by the question. She searched for a drink.

Daniel anticipated her. He handed her a glass. ‘Are you sure you don’t remember anything else?’

Sam took a grateful sip of the liquid before she replied. ‘Daniel,’ she said, putting the glass down, ‘what’s happened?’

Her friend pressed his lips together. ‘You don’t remember waking up in the MALP room? Telling Jack you were shouting for us to hear?’

She glared at him.

‘OK, OK.’ Daniel took her hand. ‘When you began communicating with the entity, it used the opportunity to transfer itself into you.’

Her eyes went wide. She swallowed hard. ‘Tell me everything, Daniel. Everything.’

‘We didn’t know whether you were still in, well, you.’ Daniel admitted quietly.

Sam paled.

Daniel squeezed her hand. ‘Jack, he, er, he kind of threatened it if it didn’t give you back to us and it transferred you into the thing in the MALP room. I mean, your consciousness. But Jack had to shoot you with a zat…it, well, your body.’

‘He shot me?’ Sam double-checked what she had heard.

‘He zatted you twice. He…he thought he’d killed you, Sam.’ Daniel said gently. ‘Janet resuscitated your body but there was no brain activity. We spent about an hour thinking,’ tears sprang into his eyes and it was Sam’s turn to squeeze his hand comfortingly, ‘thinking you were…you know, dead.’

‘Holy Hannah.’ Sam muttered. She shook her head. What Daniel had told her seemed unreal. She had been possessed by the entity? Jack had shot her? Thought he’d killed her? Her chest tightened and she tried to breathe. She knew how Jack must have felt. She had fired on Martouf and that had been bad enough. If it had been Jack…she had nightmares where sometimes it wasn’t Martouf and it was Jack. Each time she had the nightmare it scared her to death. Her eyes sought Daniel’s.

‘You managed to let us know you were in there, in the MALP thing, and Janet managed to get you back into your body.’ Daniel told her. ‘You were back with us for a minute but you crashed and we’ve been waiting for you to wake up since.’

Sam realised she could vaguely remember waking up. She had woken briefly and looked straight at Jack. She was certain of it. He had looked so exhausted; his face had looked so grave. But his eyes; like hot chocolate, so warm and filled with love and comfort. She had felt so loved; safe.

‘The Colonel was here.’ Sam murmured.

Daniel looked at her startled. ‘You remember?’

‘I think I woke up earlier or came to anyway.’ Sam said. ‘He was here.’

‘He was.’ Daniel confirmed.

‘Where is he?’ Sam asked. It was unusual for him to leave any of them when they were injured.

‘He’s…he took off, Sam.’ Daniel gave an apologetic grimace. ‘General Hammond told us Jack’s on leave for a week.’

‘Oh.’ Sam blinked. Disappointment filled her. He’d left?

Daniel’s fingers tightened on hers. ‘You have to understand, Sam. When he thought you were dead…’ He trailed away awkwardly.

‘It’s OK, Daniel.’ She dropped her gaze to their joined hands.

‘I’m really sorry, Sam.’ The words seemed to tumble out of Daniel. ‘This is all my fault. If I hadn’t wanted to talk to it…’

‘Hey, I agreed with you.’ Sam said firmly. ‘And I’m OK. Really.’

Footsteps had them both turning to meet the returning Teal’c and the diminutive doctor at his side.

‘Major.’ Janet smiled warmly at her, reaching for the chart. ‘You gave us quite a scare.’

‘She doesn’t remember anything.’ Daniel said as he slipped off the bed and let go of Sam’s hand.

‘Well, that wouldn’t be unusual.’ Janet said briskly turning to Sam. ‘Your mind suffered quite a trauma. Some amnesia is probably to be expected.’ She looked at the two men. ‘If you’ll excuse us, gentlemen.’

Teal’c bowed his head and Daniel sent Sam a sympathetic look as they stepped out.

‘So, you don’t remember anything?’ Janet asked as she took out her penlight. She shone it into Sam’s eyes.

‘Nothing since I tried to communicate with the thing in the MALP room.’ Sam admitted. ‘Daniel filled me in.’

Janet made a note of her observations. She examined the monitors and the IVs. ‘Well, everything seems to be back to normal but I’d like to keep you here for observation for the next twenty-four hours and run an MRI scan.’ She put the chart down and smiled at Sam. ‘Just to be certain.’

Sam nodded. ‘I hear I owe you a thank you.’

Janet shrugged self-consciously. ‘Just doing my job.’ Her hand fell to Sam’s. ‘It is really good to have you back.’ She patted Sam’s hand. ‘Get some rest. I’ll get the nurse to come back and get you for the scan later.’

Sam settled back on the pillows. The whole thing was bewildering, she mused. The last thing she could remember clearly was the Colonel’s panicked voice calling her name in the MALP room and thinking he should really cut the power but being somehow unable to speak.

She wished Jack was with her and hadn’t gone away. She understood it but she desperately wanted to tell him it was OK. That she understood he’d had to shoot; had to kill the entity occupying her body. She would have done the same in his position. But she could imagine how it had affected him, how it would have affected her.

Almost losing him.

Being the one to kill him.

He had lived her worst nightmare – the nightmare the frat regs was supposed to ensure never happened; being in the position of killing a loved one. It was good he’d put some distance between them, she told herself briskly. It would give them both a chance to deal with it before they had to work together again.

It was good.

Sam closed her eyes and tried to ignore how much she wanted the Colonel beside her.

o-O-o

Teal’c made his way to Daniel’s office determinedly. It was late. The archaeologist had been translating some Ankari document for the past few days ahead of his planned return to the Ankari homeworld to finish trade negotiations. O’Neill had asked Teal’c to take care of their team-mates and Teal’c was a Jaffa who took his responsibilities seriously. He believed that O’Neill would have also ordered Daniel Jackson to bed as the return mission to the Ankari was scheduled for an early departure.

The Jaffa understood O’Neill’s wish to leave. He wasn’t oblivious to the feelings between the two military officers in SG1 and he knew the act of killing Major Carter would have been difficult for O’Neill to assimilate. He also believed the Major understood why O’Neill had left and accepted it. Perhaps she of all of them knew what O’Neill was feeling given her own experience with Martouf.

Daniel Jackson, on the other hand, had not taken the older man’s absence well. He claimed to understand but it was clear that O’Neill’s decision to leave Major Carter especially during the period of her recovery had unsettled the younger man. Teal’c reached the open doorway and stood silently, legs slightly apart, arms behind his back, his bulk filling the space. He waited for the archaeologist to realise he was there.

Daniel made another notation on his writing pad before his eyes returned to the document he was translating. He pursed his lips thoughtfully and made another scribble on the notepad.

Teal’c raised an eyebrow. It was not unusual for the archaeologist to become consumed by his work and become oblivious to everything. ‘Daniel Jackson.’

‘Hmmm?’

‘Is it not time for you to retire?’ Teal’c suggested firmly.

Daniel’s lips twitched and he looked at the clock. His blue eyes widened behind his glasses. ‘I guess so.’ He muttered before he looked down at the papers. He sighed.

‘Have you completed your translation of the Ankari’s trade rituals?’ Teal’c asked as Daniel gathered the papers together on his desk into a tidy pile.

‘I think so.’ Daniel frowned. ‘There’s this passage about some kind of union that I think I need to talk with their leader about. I’m not sure I’ve understood it correctly.’

‘You are looking forward to your mission.’ Teal’c noted as Daniel switched his reading lamp off and moved towards him. They began walking down the corridor.

‘I am.’ Daniel admitted. ‘I mean, I know we’re trading with them because we want something from them but the medicines they’ll receive will make a big difference and save many of their people, Teal’c.’ He gave a rueful grimace. ‘After everything that happened with the computer entity, it’s good to think something good is going to come of our contact with another world.’

Teal’c inclined his head.

‘How’s Sam?’ Daniel asked as they got into the elevator.

‘She retired to her quarters earlier.’ Teal’c recalled that she had taken some convincing. After her stay in the infirmary she had been involved in repairing much of the damage caused by the entity, checking and double-checking the computer systems to enable the base to resume normal operations. It had caused much of her usual work to stack up and she was determinedly working her way through the backlog.

‘Have you heard from Jack?’ Daniel asked, crossing his arms.

‘I have not.’ Teal’c confirmed.

Daniel sighed. ‘Doctor Fraiser told me he called her to check on Sam the other day.’

The news didn’t surprise Teal’c.

‘I guess I’ll be off-world when he gets back.’ Daniel mused out loud.

Teal’c nodded. The Colonel was scheduled to return in two days while the Ankari mission would take at least another week.

The elevator came to a halt and they both walked out and headed for their quarters. Teal’c waited until the archaeologist closed the door on his quarters before he headed into his own. His duty was done – at least for another day.

o-O-o

Jack glanced at the sunrise in the East before he touched the headstone that marked his son’s grave. He had returned the previous evening to Colorado, unable to stay away for the entire week of leave he had been given. The more time had passed, the more it had felt that all he had done was run away. Yet, he couldn’t ignore that the distance he had put between him and his team had been exactly what he had needed.

He’d spent the time at his cabin thinking as he fished. He’d thought a lot about Charlie and Sara when he’d been away. He had lost one family because he hadn’t protected them. He knew deep down that he hadn’t been careful enough with his weapon and his son had shot himself; that he hadn’t been able to handle the aftermath and he’d hurt Sara. Jack hadn’t been there for her; had only been consumed with his want to crawl away and die somewhere.

He recognised that he had felt the same way when he’d sat by Carter’s bedside thinking she was dead; that he had killed her. Like all he wanted was to crawl away and die. If she had died, Jack wasn’t certain he would have survived it. He had pulled himself back from the brink once; twice didn’t seem possible. Losing Charlie had been the hardest thing he’d ever had to go through.

Jack sighed. The first mission through the Stargate to Abydos had stopped him wishing he was dead. SG1 had given him a reason to live again. He cherished the friendships he had built with the team and they were his family – the only one he had left. He had to do better at protecting them, especially Carter.

It was his fault they had ended up where they were, Jack concluded. In hindsight, as the senior officer, he should have ensured they had maintained an appropriate military distance given the reality of their situation. The likelihood of their getting together in some future where they may not be in each others’ chain of command was remote. He had briefly considered retirement during his time at his cabin but he felt a responsibility for getting Earth involved with the Goa’uld in the first place and he couldn’t walk away from that. The mission was too important and while he knew he had to do better at protecting his team, he figured staying on the sidelines was not the way to do that.

The hard truth was he believed both he and Carter were needed on SG1 and needed in the fight against the Goa’uld. So, what was likely was that there would be another day when one of them would be faced with taking out someone they loved to save others or losing one of their SG1 family. War was hard and it was brutal. People died. Jack knew that. It was hard enough to lose a team-mate and a friend, he and Carter shouldn’t complicate matters further with feeling feelings on the small hope of someday getting the chance to be together.

It would be better for Carter in the long run. If they had gotten together even when it was legit, there would have been aspersions cast on her promotions and her record. She deserved better. She definitely deserved better than a beaten-up soldier with baggage anyway. She was young and beautiful. She would find someone else who could give her everything he couldn’t; she would fall in love again. The thought burned his gut but he ignored it. No. It was time for them to accept that it was never going to happen and move on.

He just had no idea how he was going to tell Carter.

Or how he – they – were going to do it.

The wind sent his short grey hair awry as he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket.

It wasn’t just Carter he needed to get some perspective on either, Jack mused. He was too close to all of SG1. Daniel and Teal’c were like brothers to him. Their lives deeply entangled outside of the SGC as much as within it. He sighed again. He didn’t want to lose or risk the team dynamic by withdrawing completely into formality but he knew he needed to find a balance. It was for the best, Jack told himself firmly. He would be able to protect his team better with greater objectivity.

He crouched and touched his son’s name gently. He couldn’t lose someone else he loved because he hadn’t taken the right measures to protect them. Not again.

Jack rose and headed for his truck. The journey to the SGC was swift and he signed in at the security point almost absent-mindedly. He made his way to the locker room. He was half-surprised it was empty but looking at his watch he realised it was very early. He was half-way through tying his boots up when the door opened and a kitted up Daniel walked in.

They stared at each other in surprise for a long moment.

‘Jack.’ Daniel said eventually, folding his arms across his chest.

‘Daniel.’ Jack replied.

Daniel frowned. ‘I didn’t think you were back for another couple of days.’

‘Well, you know how I just can’t stay away.’ Jack said sarcastically.

‘That’s kind of my point.’ Daniel shot back.

Jack stared at him confused. ‘What?’

‘What?’ Daniel replied.

Jack got to his feet and reached into the locker for the BDU shirt. ‘You’re a little dressed up aren’t you?’ He commented before Daniel could say anything more.

‘I’ve got a mission.’ Daniel said quietly as he moved to his own locker. ‘Just came into get my allergy meds.’

‘Right.’ Jack remembered. ‘The Anchors…’

‘Ankari.’ Daniel corrected.

‘Them.’ Jack looked over at him. ‘So what time are you leaving?’

‘Fifteen minutes.’

Jack kept his attention on his locker. ‘Carter in her lab yet?’

‘Yeah.’

‘I’ll go grab her and we’ll meet you in the gate room. See you off properly.’ Jack shut the door on his locker.

‘Sure…’ Daniel sounded like Jack had wrong-footed him. ‘Jack, about what happened…’

‘It’s in the past, Daniel.’ Jack said sharply. ‘Let’s leave it there.’ He made for the door before Daniel could argue the point. He made his way quickly to Carter’s lab. He paused in the doorway.

Sam was bent over some strange device, her fingers nimbly pulling it apart. Jack buried the urge to walk in and yank her away from it in case it hurt her. He knocked lightly on the doorframe.

Her head snapped round and she straightened and her face brightened with a happy smile. ‘Sir. I didn’t realise you were back.’

‘Just got in.’ Jack said, keeping his tone light. ‘You got a minute?’

She nodded and he saw the flicker of nerves in her eyes that her voice didn’t betray. ‘Of course, sir.’

He closed the door behind him and moved to stand a few feet away from her. He stuffed his hands in his pants’ pockets and rocked back on his heels. ‘Fraiser tells me that you don’t remember much about what happened.’ He’d called just to check Carter was OK and to assuage his guilt at not being there.

‘Not a thing.’ Sam confirmed. ‘I guess I’m the lucky one.’

‘Lucky.’ Jack agreed gruffly, the events flashing through his mind again like a locomotive.

She looked for a second like she was going to take a step toward him but she didn’t and he was grateful. If she had, he wasn’t sure he could have continued with what he needed to do.

‘It got a little too close there for a while.’ Jack said softly. His eyes held hers and begged her to understand. ‘I hope we can put this behind us, Carter.’ He continued quietly. ‘Move on?’

He saw when Sam truly registered his meaning; that he wasn’t talking about his shooting her, he was talking about them. She dropped her gaze momentarily before she looked up at him again, holding his gaze determinedly. ‘Yes, sir.’

Jack nodded sharply and registered that it was cold disappointment that gripped him instead of a warm rush of relief at her agreement. It was done; he couldn’t undo it and it was for the best – for her protection. ‘OK.’ He tilted his head back toward the door. ‘Want to go see Daniel off?’

She smiled; it was dimmer than normal and didn’t reach her eyes. ‘Yes, sir.’

They walked out of the lab and into the elevator.

‘So, anything exciting happen around here that I should know about?’ Jack asked unable to live with the awkward tension. Balance, he reminded himself. He didn’t want it to be awkward.

‘No, sir.’ Sam shook her head. ‘It’s been very dull.’

‘Good.’ Jack sad brightly. ‘Dull is good.’

She shot him an amused look and he smiled crookedly at her. He saw her shoulders relax a little and breathed an inward sigh of relief. They walked into the gate room in an affable silence and were met with a cacophony of sound as the Stargate spun and the team prepared to leave.

Teal’c bowed his head in greeting. ‘O’Neill.’

‘Teal’c.’ Jack greeted him briskly. ‘Come to say goodbye to Daniel?’

‘Indeed.’ Teal’c agreed.

Jack looked in surprise at Fraiser standing close by, all geared up. ‘You going with, Doc?’

‘I am.’ Janet nodded. ‘We’re trading medical supplies.’

‘Ah.’ Jack murmured.

Daniel rushed in, still adjusting his hat and he halted abruptly at the sight of his team-mates. ‘Hey.’

‘You got everything.’ Jack asked dryly, seeing the huge back-pack the younger man was carrying and the way Daniel was staggering underneath it.

‘It’s just a few books.’ Daniel defended.

‘How many is a few?’ Jack asked. ‘You can hardly walk with that.’

‘Twelve.’ Teal’c replied.

Daniel glared at the Jaffa.

‘I counted them when Daniel Jackson packed them.’ Teal’c said to Jack.

Jack looked at Daniel with raised eyebrows. ‘And you really need twelve books?’

‘I need them.’

‘He needs them.’

Daniel and Sam spoke together; they shared a conspiratorial smile; Teal’c and Jack exchanged a knowing one in reply.

‘Six books, Daniel.’ Jack ordered. ‘Or you’re not going.’

‘Jack.’ Daniel protested.

Jack looked at him.

‘Ten.’ Daniel insisted.

‘Six.’ Jack shot back.

‘Eight.’ Daniel retorted.

‘Eight.’ Jack agreed.

Daniel took the rucksack off his shoulders and quickly discarded four books, grumbling under his breath. The Stargate bloomed out.

‘Are you ready, Doctor Jackson?’ SG11’s CO called out from the bottom of the ramp.

‘Look after him, Patterson.’ Jack ordered. He glared at the Major to make sure his meaning was understood; anything happened to Daniel and Patterson would feel the wrath of one Colonel Jack O’Neill.

Patterson nodded. ‘Yes, sir.’

SG11 started up the ramp; Fraiser with them.

Sam moved forward and hugged Daniel. ‘Take care.’

Daniel nodded and started to shrug the rucksack back onto his shoulders. Teal’c moved to help him.

Jack raised the abandoned books with a smile. ‘I’ll take good care of them.’ He heard Sam snicker beside him and Teal’c’s stern features warmed with amusement.

Daniel shot Jack a look over his shoulder and walked away into the wormhole. It blinked out.

Jack smiled and looked down at the books as Sam and Teal’c headed out of the gate room. Protecting his team. That’s what was important. From alien entities and too many books; from themselves and from him. Protecting them was his priority and he wouldn’t lose sight of that.

He wouldn’t lose his family again.

Not a second time.

fin.
 

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